By DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Drew Hale, Varda Appleton, Shane Woodson and Kari Alison Hodge
Written and Directed by Drew Hale
Pegasus Flying Films/Kandoo Films
After Jared Leto’s questionable antics while “method acting” the role of a cartoonish murder clown on the set of Suicide Squad, I think it’s safe to say we have all, collectively had enough of method actors. I personally believe that method acting lately has just become a way to generate buzz about a movie beforehand, since everyone wants to see the movie where an actor reportedly ate their own hair while living in a shoe or something. CUT AND CHOP is about an actor who might be getting a little too in character, or he may just be using that as an excuse to act like a kook. The phrase “descent into madness” gets thrown around a lot, but for once I find it applicable, as this film appropriately dissects the pseudo-intellectual excuses we heap on artists, whose behaviours would normally earn them a punch in the face (or a straightjacket.)
Our story follows Tom (Drew Hale, The Mandolorian, Clown), a struggling artist who seems to be having something of a breakdown. He abruptly shaves his luxurious mustache, he leers at people, he steals things at random, he becomes sexually violent and he might be drinking too much. All of this is forgiven by those around him, since he is one of those “creative types.” We learn this is because he might be studying up on a role that he recently landed, the antagonist in the titular CUT AND CHOP. Although if the timeline of the movie is to be trusted, he seems to have been acting erratically before actually landing the role…
Along for the dive into the meatgrinder is his long suffering girlfriend Esmerelda (Kari Alison Hodge, Good Kisser, Crazy Bitches) who at least seems to know something is wrong, but always brushes away he doubts and fears. In fact, most of the plot relies on people not calling Tom out on his bullshit, which can be an overused trope in other films, but in CUT AND CHOP the reactions seem somewhat more grounded. We’ve all made excuses for that one friend who is going through an extremely rough patch, right?
Esmerelda’s friends, Gladys (Varda Appleton, Sleeper, Hunter) and Burt (Shane Woodson, Cain and Abel, Barracuda) also start to get pulled down the drain when they have a double date. This really showcases how truly unwell Tom is behaving, which only gets chalked up to him drinking and smoking too much (the last time he smoked weed, he ran off into the woods and returned naked & sobbing, no big deal.)
What I really loved about this film is that as whatever is happening with Tom, whether it’s him unravelling mentally or him truly getting into character, makes him seem more functional. As his actions become more aggressive or violent, his personality also becomes more outgoing and interactive. He speaks more loudly and fluently, dropping his patented mumbling. His confidence seems to go through the roof. It’s easy to see how people could be pulled into the orbit of Tom’s madness.
For a feature film directorial debut, Drew Hale seems to really know what he’s doing. Nothing is arthouse fancy and there isn’t a bombardment of Dutch angles, but the space is layered really intelligently, and the cameras keep us always in tom’s world. Sometimes distorted, sometimes surreal. There’s also a lot of understated gore, which leaves things enticingly ambiguous, until they are abruptly and violently not.
Also, for reasons I can’t explain, Ron Jeremy is in this, and he runs a liquor store.
Not a slasher, but not a demure slog, not highly intellectual but not a paint by numbers affair, CUT AND CHOP is fun, interesting, weird, and probably a story we will eventually see in the headlines one day, especially around Oscar season. It’s definitely worth a watch, if only to argue with your friends about what you think is going wrong, or right, with Tom.
CUT AND CHOP will be available to stream on iTunes, Spectrum, Google, Amazon and most other platforms by August 14.